Monday, February 16, 2009

Navy Sonar may have caused Whales stranding in Manila Bay

More than 200 Whales stranded in Manila Bay.

Large pods of distressed whales were spotted off the Bataan peninsula, west of Manila. Three were found dead alongside the seaside towns of Pilar and Abucay and authorities raced against time to get the others back into deep water.

"This is an unusual phenomenon," an official has said, explaining the mammals "could be reacting to a heat wave or disturbance at sea such as a possible major underwater earthquake".

The mammals were at first thought to have been dolphins, but experts then identified them as melon-headed whales.

Vet Mariel Flores said this type of whale can be "easily mistaken for dolphins because of their size and their teeth, which resemble those of dolphins".

The mammals have ears that are sensitive to large changes in pressure underwater, she said. "If their eardrums are damaged they become disorientated and they float up to the surface," the vet explained.

Small pods of dolphins had beached themselves elsewhere in the Philippines previously, but this was the first time so many mammals had done so at the same time and place, she said.

Government marine biologist Rizza Salinas said a possible cause for the whales getting stranded could have been illegal dynamite fishing in the area. Another theory was that they reacted to a major underwater earthquake.

The mammals were said to be heading back into open water, although one was taken to a nearby marine park to be looked at by vets.

As per newspaper reports between 250 to 500 melodn-headed whales had strayed into the shallow waters of Bataan coast in Manila Bay. Bureau of Fisheries officials reported that it was very strange and unusual as they appeared disoriented.

There were many reasons for that disorientation as follows:
1. They strayed in the area due to an undersea quake, rapid changes in water pressure created by underwater earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or seismic testing may damage the sinuses and middle ears of whales, preventing them from diving and feeding. This may then lead to illness and navigational error causing them to strand.
2. They maybe following a sick or injured leader.
3. Boat noise, such as sonar, can disrupt a whale's or dolphin's ability to communicate, feed and navigate. Ships can run into them, and fishing nets can trap them.
4. And industrial waste and litter pollute the sea, including plastics that dolphins and whales can swallow.

However there is also a big possibility that the reasons for the whales disorientation is that either the naval vessels of PLA Navy of Peoples Republic of China or the U.S.Navy were operating mid-frequency active sonar somewhere in the South China near Luzon coast to look for opponent submarines. Below were the incidents in the United States about Navy Sonar being harmful to whales and dolphins.

NOAA blasts U.S. Navy over whale-killing sonar
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WASHINGTON (18 Feb 2006) -- The civilian agency in charge of marine issues has sharply challenged the Navy's plans to build an underwater sonar training range in the Atlantic Ocean, saying that the military significantly underestimated the danger posed to whales and other marine mammals and that the science the Navy used to reach its conclusions is flawed.

In a technical letter to the Navy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the Navy had neglected to address the likelihood that its mid-frequency sonar would kill some whales and that the highly endangered right whale makes its annual migrations near the proposed site off North Carolina and could be threatened. But most telling, the NOAA letter said that the Navy had used a measure for allowable noise 100 times as high as the level recommended by the agency.
The sonar testing range is a high priority for the Navy, which says that it needs an Atlantic Ocean site to train sailors to detect foreign submarines that come near American shores. But it is trying to get the project approved at a time when scientists have become increasingly convinced that the loud blasts of active sonar have caused whales to strand themselves and die.

The NOAA letter, which is a formal comment on the Navy's environmental impact statement regarding the sonar range, is the most public indication so far of what agency insiders have described as friction between NOAA and Navy officials regarding the sonar issue. In the past, NOAA has generally supported the Navy's plans with reservations, but the most recent letter makes little effort to hide significant disagreements.

NOAA, for instance, wrote that the Navy predicted only lower-level "harassment" of whales by the sonar, despite recent fatal and near-fatal mass strandings in Hawaii and elsewhere that many scientists think were caused by Navy sonar.
"NOAA believes the Navy should seriously reconsider the potential for mortality of [whales] due to strandings related to activities" in the proposed sonar testing range, the letter said.

NOAA officials did not respond yesterday to requests for comment about the specific issues raised in the letter, which was sent on Jan. 30. A Navy official said the service would like to respond, but that it could not until the letter was reviewed and a formal response prepared.

A representative of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group which has sued the Navy over its sonar programs, said that the NOAA letter was remarkable, given the pressure the civilian agency was known to be under.

Deafeningly loud sonar is a proven danger to marine life, but its use throughout the world's oceans is spreading. This powerful movie makes plain what sonar does to whales caught within its range, and explains how whales, dolphins and other marine animals can be protected from deadly sonar. Watch the short movie, then follow the link below and demand action.

The Navy vs. Whales
Tuesday January 29, 2008
It seems like whales can’t get a fair break these days. Not only do they have to deal with the constant attention of Japanese whaling fleets (all in the name of research apparently) but now they seem to have made enemies of the US Navy and even George W. Bush.

The US Navy began conducting exercises using mid-frequency active sonar off the coast of California last year. Mid-frequency active sonar is used to search for submarines, but unfortunately has the side effect of causing permanent injury or death to whales and dolphins. After a series of legal battles it was decided that in order to protect the endangered species that live along the California coast the Navy should not use the sonar in close proximity to the coast or near whales. This decision was recently overturned by George W. Bush himself, in the interests of national security of course.

Unfortunately, the argument seems to have become one of protecting whales vs. national security, an argument that isn’t really based in reality. The Navy has only been asked to avoid using the potentially harmful sonar in the vicinity of whales and dolphins during training exercises, not during actual defense operations. This doesn’t really seem like a matter of national security to me, or many other people involved. It’s too bad that the Navy and the President don’t seem to agree. The situation is yet to be resolved but it’s expected that tomorrow a Federal judge will rule in favor of the whales.

Whale, large mammal that lives its entire life in the water. Whales have a fishlike body; however, their tail fins, called flukes, are horizontal rather than vertical, and they have paddlelike front limbs, called flippers. Their skin is smooth and glossy and, depending on the species, may be black, white, or a variety of colors and patterns. Beneath the skin is a thick layer of fat, called blubber, which provides insulation and serves as a source of stored energy.

Whales resemble fish in many ways, but they are not fish. Fish are cold-blooded and breathe underwater using gills; whales, on the other hand, maintain a warm and constant body temperature of about 37°C (about 99°F) and breathe air with lungs. Unlike fish, which move their vertical tail fins from side to side when they swim, whales move their horizontal tail fins up and down to propel themselves through the water.

Whales belong to the mammalian order Cetacea. Scientists classify whales into two groups. One group, known as the Odontoceti, or toothed whales, have jaws lined with pointed teeth that they use in hunting fish, squid, and other prey. Toothed whales also include dolphins and porpoises. The other whale group, called the Mysticeti, or baleen whales, lack teeth. These whales use giant, flexible combs of a material called baleen to filter small fish and tiny crustaceans from the water.
Whales are found in all the world's oceans and even in a few rivers. One species of dolphin, the pink river dolphin, lives only in the Amazon River and its larger tributaries. Some whales, including the blue, fin, humpback, and gray, undertake some of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom, traveling between the tropics in winter and subpolar waters in summer. Other whales do not migrate long distances or, like the killer whales, wander without specific migratory routes.


Whales are enormous in size compared to all other animals. The blue whale is one of the largest animals that has ever lived, reaching a length of over 24 m (80 ft) and a weight of 150 metric tons. Its heart is as big as a Volkswagen Beetle, and its body is almost as large and about as heavy as that of the largest known dinosaur.
Whales have a streamlined, rounded body tapering in the rear to a pair of broad horizontal tail flukes that provide the main propulsive thrust for swimming. They have paddle-shaped flippers that help stabilize and steer the whale while swimming. The bones of the flippers resemble the jointed limbs and digits of land mammals. Many whales have a dorsal fin located at or behind the center of the back.

Sense Organs

The eyes of most whales are well adapted for life underwater. Strong muscles surrounding each eye change the shape of the eye’s lens. This enables whales to focus their vision both underwater and above water. Whale eyes can withstand high pressure when the animal dives to great depths, and the tear ducts shed oily tears that enhance underwater vision and protect the eyes from the effects of salt water.
The streamlined bodies of whales do not have the external ear structures called pinnae that land mammals use to gather airborne sound. But whales still have excellent hearing and can perceive a wide range of sounds, many of which are not audible to humans. For toothed whales that commonly hunt for food in the dark depths of the ocean, hearing is often enhanced by echolocation, in which the animals emit clicking sounds that bounce off objects. The returning echo is used as a sonar image of the underwater surroundings. Toothed whales share this ability with bats, shrews, and a few kinds of birds.

Baleen whales have a poor sense of smell, and toothed whales lack smell entirely. Some whales, such as dolphins, can taste different chemicals in water to differentiate between sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, but in general the sense of taste in whales is limited.

Echolocation, use of sound by some animals to perceive surroundings. By emitting sounds and listening for their echoes, animals are able to find prey, avoid obstacles, and navigate without using vision. Echolocation is used at night or in environments that are perpetually dark, such as inside caves, underground, or in the deep sea. Four groups of animals use echolocation: cetaceans (whales and dolphins), bats (see Bat: Echolocation), birds, and shrews.

Sounds are vibrations that travel through air, water, or solid objects. The number of vibrations per second is known as the frequency, and it is measured in units of cycles per second, or hertz. Sounds with higher frequencies are heard as higher tones. Tones higher than the limits of human hearing, usually above 20,000 hertz, are called ultrasounds. When a sound strikes an object, the sound bounces back, or reflects. The returning sound is called an echo.

By careful interpretation of returning echoes, animals can gauge an object’s distance, size, and whether the object is moving away from or toward them. The length of time between when a sound is emitted and when it returns as an echo indicates how far away an object is—echoes take longer to return from objects that are farther away. The loudness of an echo is determined by the size of the object, its distance, and its texture. Echoes from an approaching object are compressed, returning at a higher frequency than when they were sent (see Doppler Effect). For an object moving away, the effect is the opposite. Echolocators create a very precise image from the echoes they hear. Studies have shown that killer whales can distinguish between cod and salmon, and bats can avoid very fine wires while flying at full speed.

Toothed whales and dolphins emit sounds for echolocation that span a wide frequency, from the lower tones used in human speech (around 250 hertz) to ultrasounds (around 220,000 hertz) that are way beyond the limit of human hearing. Other echolocating animals emit sounds within a narrower range.

Short bursts of high-pitched sounds are most effective for echolocation. The sounds are pulsed, leaving silent pauses during which the animal listens for echoes. As hunters close in on their prey, the sounds emitted increase from 1 to 5 pulses per second to as many as 200 per second in bats and 500 per second in killer whales. In order not to deafen itself while the pulse is produced, the hunter uses muscles to immobilize the small bones that transmit sound from the eardrum to the inner ear.
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Wednesday February 4, 4:38 AM

China increases submarine patrols - report
WASHINGTON (AFP) - China nearly doubled the number of patrols by its fleet of attack submarines last year, surpassing Russia but still far behind the United States, the Federation of American Scientists reported Tuesday. The report, based on declassified information provided by US naval intelligence, said Chinese attack submarines conducted 12 patrols in 2008, compared to seven in 2007, two in 2006 and none in 2005. "While the increase in submarine patrols is important, it has to be seen in comparison with the size of the Chinese submarine fleet," said Hans Kristensen, director of the organization's nuclear information project. "With approximately 54 submarines, the patrol rate means that each submarine on average goes on patrol once every four and a half years," he said. The patrols may have been carried out by just the most modern and capable types of submarines in the Chinese fleet, the report said, noting that a new class of nuclear-powered Shang-class attack submarines is replacing the aging Han-class.

There is a also strong possibility that the Chinese PLA Navy were engaged again in
an unannounced big scale naval maneuvers / exercises in the South China near our territorial water in the South China Sea off Luzon and the Kalayaan Islands Group, in which they may be using mid-frequency Sonar for tracking other Submarines.

As per studies in United States by both Naval authorities, Conservation societies, and NOAA, it was discovered that mid-frequency Sonar used for detecting Submarines can be very harmful to Whales and Dolphins which can lead to their death. Sonar waves from Naval vessels that were hunting submarines can damaged the whale's eardrums and disoriented them. They will lost their sense of directions that may lead them to propellers of big ships or may strands them in shallow water.


President Hu Jintao inspects PLA Navy Warships in Hainan


Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy - Submarine Fleet

VIDEO LINKS from U.S. Conservation Society :

Lethal sounds

Sound Judgement

Earth Justice
Navy sonar and whales


Other Videos

China sub collides with array towed by U.S. ship: report

Fri Jun 12, 9:21 pm ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Chinese submarine accidentally collided with an underwater sonar array being towed by a U.S. military ship, CNN reported on Friday, quoting an unnamed military official.

The incident occurred on Thursday near Subic Bay off the coast of the Philippines, according to the CNN report.

The destroyer USS John S. McCain was towing the array, deployed to track underwater sounds.

"The John S. McCain did have a problem with its towed array sonar. It was damaged" on Thursday in Subic Bay, a Pentagon spokesman told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The spokesman, who asked not to be identified, would not confirm other details of the CNN report, including whether the array collided with a Chinese submarine. He said the U.S. destroyer was not damaged and was not hit by another vessel.

The U.S. Navy does not view the incident as a deliberate move by Beijing to harass military ships operating in the region, CNN reported.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Submarine activities were quite high in west coast of Luzon near Manila Bay and Subic
Bay, no wonder the whales lost their sense of directions.

Newest addendum to this topic of Whales and Submarines.

Playing Tag With The Chinese

June 17, 2009: On June 11, the American destroyer USS John McCain, while training off Subic Bay in the Philippines, had its towed sonar array collide with a Chinese submarine. The U.S. Navy did not reveal if the American ship had detected the sub before the collision. If the array was not activated, its sound (sonar) detectors would not have detected the sub. The Chinese admitted the sub was one of theirs, and the boat was apparently following the American ship unaware that a sonar array (which usually operates over a hundred meters beneath the surface, and two kilometers behind the ship towing it) was there.
The Chinese sub was probably a diesel-electric sub, which is a lot quieter under water than one of their nuclear powered models. The incident brings up memories of similar incidents with Russian subs during the Cold War. Some of these collisions were believed to be intelligence operations, an effort to grab portions of the American sonar array for examination (and reverse engineering.)

U.S. anti-submarine forces (subs, aircraft and surface ships) are increasingly playing tag with Chinese subs. As was done with Russian subs during the Cold War, the American sailors want to hone their skills at finding Chinese subs. All this effort is kept quite secret, as any information about American successes or failures, can be useful to the Chinese.

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